Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

Pros


  • Helping people by relieving them of painful problems that are related to the head and mouth.
  • This is a good career for someone who likes to fix things.
  • Someone with a keen interest in science would find this occupation very interesting and engaging.

Cons

  • You will spend a lot of time operating on people, often for long periods of time.
  • Training for this type of work takes a very long time, one of the longest for any occupation.
  • There are some pressure situations involved with this job, so those interested in this field must be capable of handling stress.

Overview

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are a unique mix of dentist and medical doctor. They perform surgical procedures on the mouth, jaws and related head and neck structure of patients for a variety of reasons. Often procedures are done to remove impacted teeth, repair structural abnormalities or to correct problems related to a patient’s jaw structure. They will also perform emergency procedures to help patients that have experienced a significant facial injury. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons will also do minor cosmetic procedure for patients.

Working with dentists that have general practices, oral and maxillofacial surgeons usually come into a patient’s care once a diagnosis has been made. They usually are prepared to do more extensive surgical work for complex problems than a regular dentist would normally do. They deliver anesthetics to patients in order to make sure that they do not feel pain during surgery, and use an extensive array of tools to do their work. Often they must spend hours at a time performing procedures.

There are many work environments that oral and maxillofacial surgeons will work in. They can be found in hospitals performing emergency care or special cancer treatment procedures, in a dental practice assisting a general dentist with intensive surgical procedures, or they can have their own practice if they are capable of getting enough patients that are referred to them by general dentists and doctors.

Education

It requires a lot of education to become and oral or maxillofacial surgeon, usually studying to become a dentist and then attending medical school. To follow this particular path, one must be a pre-dental student and excel in their studies. They must take the DAT, the dental admissions test, and apply for dental school. After a rigorous program studying dentistry, a student must apply to medical school. Medical school will require another four years of study, plus time spent learning hands-on about surgery in a residency program that will last several years. To become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, one needs to spend over a decade dedicated to schooling and training, which will encompass a very challenging curriculum during that time.

Job Prospects

There is great demand for dental services, and since oral and maxillofacial surgeons derive some of their work from general dentists, it can be expected that the prospects for this career are good. An aging population is expected to increase the demand for surgical procedures, and that bodes well for this career. People are also requiring more cosmetic surgical procedures, which is something that oral and maxillofacial surgeons will also benefit from.

Advancement Opportunities

The opportunity for advancement in this occupation depends on whether a person wants to run their own practice or not, which is common for oral and maxillofacial surgeons. Starting a practice requires one to be savvy in marketing and also be able to network with medical professionals in their community to have patients referred to them. For those who do not want to work for themselves, it is possible to become specialized in certain procedures while working in a hospital or private clinic, which is generally better paying than general practice.